As a gesture of thanks and friendship for the over 12,000 Blue-eyed Dolls received from America, Japan decided to make 58 Torei Ningyo (Dolls of Gratitude) to send to America.
The Japanese Committee on International Friendship Among Children, acting with the Department of Education, coordinated the plan to send these dolls, to be officially known as Doll Ambassadors of Goodwill. To fund the project, the Committee collected one sen (about one half cent) each from about 2.6 million school children. Miss Japan was valued at $350, and the other dolls cost $200 each.
The Friendship Dolls sent from Japan are about 33 inches tall. The very best doll makers in Japan made the dolls to be sent to America. Their gorgeous kimonos were made from the most luxurious silk found in Japan, and they were decorated exquisitely with hand-printed or delicately painted patterns.
The majority of the dolls were named after the 47 Japanese prefectures, and 6 dolls bore the names of the largest Japanese cities (Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya, Yokohama, and Kobe). Four dolls had names of the territories held by Japan in 1927: Taiwan, Chosen (Korea), Karafuto (Sakhalin), and Kanto-shu (Liaotung Peninsula, located in southern part of the province of Manchuria in China). Finally, the finest and most expensive doll, Miss Dai Nippon (Miss Japan), represented the entire empire of Japan as a present from the imperial household.
When the ambassador dolls were ready, each one went to her prefecture or city for an official farewell reception. The receptions culminated in a great farewell meeting in Tokyo on November 4, 1927. Over one thousand children and adults in attendance listened to farewell addresses by Eiichi Shibusawa and others. An eight-year-old student, in her goodbye speech to the dolls, said:
The audience sang a farewell song especially composed for the occasion.
The Friendship Dolls traveled to America in first-class cabins of the steamship Tenyo Maru, which left Yokohama for San Francisco in November 1927, planning to arrive on the East Coast of the U.S. by Christmas. Each doll boarded with her own steamship ticket.
When the Japanese Friendship Dolls arrived in the US, many Americans throughout the country turned out to warmly welcome these ambassadors of friendship.
Photo courtesy of Shibusawa Memorial Museum, Tokyo
Page | 1927 Doll Exchange | Japanese
Friendship Dolls | American Blue-eyed Dolls